Should I Remove Lipoma From Dog?

What are Lipomas?

Lipomas are benign fatty tumors that commonly develop under a dog’s skin. Lipomas form from fat cells that clump together in a capsule in between the skin and muscle layer. They typically appear as soft, moveable lumps under the skin and are not cancerous. Lipomas can range in size from very small, pea-sized lumps to several inches across. They often have a doughy or rubbery feel on palpation. Lipomas are the most common skin tumors diagnosed in dogs, with a one-year prevalence of 1.94% across breeds according to a 2018 study [1]. Certain breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, Dobermans, Schnauzers and Sheepdogs have a higher prevalence, while mixed breeds have a lower risk.

Are Lipomas Dangerous?

Lipomas are typically non-cancerous fatty masses that form between the skin and muscle layer. The lumps are usually soft, movable, and painless. According to the VCA Animal Hospitals, lipomas are harmless growths in most cases and no treatment is necessary (Source).

However, lipomas can become problematic if they grow very large or develop in certain locations. Large lipomas may limit mobility, interfere with organ function, or impair your dog’s quality of life. Lipomas that form around joints, tendons, or ligaments can also cause difficulty moving or discomfort. While lipomas themselves are not cancerous, in rare cases they may put pressure on surrounding tissues and organs (Source).

So in most situations lipomas are benign, but it’s important to monitor their size and location. Consult your veterinarian if the lipoma seems to be impairing your dog’s mobility or quality of life. Surgical removal may be recommended for problematic lipomas.

Signs of Problematic Lipomas

While most lipomas are benign, some may become problematic and require removal. Signs that a lipoma is causing issues and may need surgical treatment include:

Rapid growth – A quickly enlarging lipoma can be a sign of potential problems. Lipomas that rapidly increase in size should be evaluated by a veterinarian.

Ulceration – Lipomas that ulcerate, ooze or bleed can become infected and require treatment. This is a sign that surgical removal may be necessary.

Impaired mobility – Lipomas located around joints or pressure points can make movement difficult or painful. Surgical removal often improves mobility.

Lack of healing – Non-healing sores or ulcers on the surface of a lipoma warrant a veterinary visit to discuss removal.

Interference with bodily functions – Lipomas that press on organs, nerves or blood vessels can impair normal functioning. Removing problematic lipomas alleviates these issues.

If a lipoma displays any of these warning signs, veterinary evaluation and likely surgical removal is recommended. Catching problematic lipomas early maximizes the chances of quick recovery and healthy long-term outcomes.

Diagnosing Lipomas

When a veterinarian suspects a lipoma, the first step is a physical exam. The vet will feel the lump for signs it is a lipoma, such as being soft, moveable, and located just under the skin. However, since lipomas can feel similar to more serious growths like cancerous tumors, further testing is usually recommended to confirm the diagnosis.

The most common diagnostic test for a suspected lipoma is a fine needle aspirate (FNA). This involves using a small needle to suction out a sample of cells from the lump. The cells are then examined under a microscope to verify it is a benign fatty tissue lipoma and not something more serious like a cancerous tumor.[1]

If the lipoma is located internally rather than externally under the skin, additional imaging tests may be necessary. X-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans or MRIs can help the vet evaluate the size, location and extent of an internal lipoma to determine the best treatment approach.[2]

Non-Surgical Treatment

If the lipoma is small and not causing any issues, the vet may recommend just observing it for changes. According to the Whole Dog Journal, lipomas often grow slowly and can be monitored at home if they do not impact mobility or quality of life.

For some problematic lipomas, vets may try steroid injections to shrink the size. As explained in a clinical study by Lamagna et al., intralesional steroid injections can reduce the size of a lipoma by 50% or more in some cases. However, results vary and multiple injections may be needed for larger lipomas.

Improving your dog’s diet and increasing exercise can also help prevent and manage lipomas. According to Dog’s Naturally Magazine, herbs like turmeric and foods like fish oil have anti-inflammatory properties that can inhibit fatty tumor growth. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise reduces risk as well.

Surgical Removal

Surgical removal is the most common and effective treatment for problematic lipomas in dogs. The procedure involves placing the dog under general anesthesia and making an incision over the lipoma to remove it.

The surgery is relatively straightforward for superficial lipomas. The veterinarian will shave the area around the lipoma, disinfect it, and inject local anesthesia. They will then make an incision over the lipoma and use blunt dissection to “pop” it out. The incision is closed with sutures or staples. For deeper or infiltrative lipomas, more extensive surgery may be required (VCA Animal Hospitals).

Recovery time is usually 1-2 weeks. Limiting activity helps prevent swelling and promotes healing. The incision site should be monitored for signs of infection. Most dogs can resume normal activity within 10-14 days. Sutures or staples are removed 10-14 days post-op (Animal Surgical Center).

Potential complications include seromas, infection, and wound dehiscence. Recurrence is possible if margins were narrow. Other risks relate to anesthesia.

Costs range from $300-1000 depending on the complexity of the surgery, location, and veterinary fees. Larger, infiltrative lipomas or multiple growths increase costs (Lamagna et al.).

Deciding on Surgery

There are several factors to consider when deciding if surgical removal of a lipoma is necessary for your dog:

Tumor size, growth, and location – Larger lipomas or ones that are growing quickly may require removal, especially if they are impeding mobility or normal bodily functions. Lipomas in areas like the armpit, groin, or behind the knee can cause discomfort and difficulty moving as they enlarge. According to VCA Hospitals, it’s best to remove lipomas when they are still small, as the surgery tends to be less invasive.

Interference with mobility or bodily functions – Lipomas that inhibit your dog’s movement or ability to go to the bathroom warrant surgical removal. Per the Animal Surgical Center, lipomas that grow to compress vital structures like nerves, blood vessels, muscles or organs need to be addressed surgically.

Overall dog health and age – Older dogs or those with other health conditions may not be good candidates for surgery. The risks and benefits must be weighed carefully. According to Embrace Pet Insurance, larger lipoma removal surgery may require general anesthesia which can be riskier for senior dogs.

Veterinary recommendation – Your veterinarian is best qualified to examine your dog’s lipomas, assess their impact, and determine if surgical removal is recommended. They can discuss the risks and benefits of the procedure based on your dog’s unique health profile.

Preparing for Surgery

Before undergoing lipoma removal surgery, dogs require certain preparations to ensure the procedure goes smoothly. The initial steps involve a pre-operative exam and bloodwork.

A complete physical exam allows the veterinarian to identify any underlying health issues that could complicate anesthesia or recovery. Pre-anesthetic blood tests like a complete blood count, chemistry panel, and coagulation profile enable vets to detect problems like anemia, dehydration, kidney disease, liver disease, electrolyte imbalances, and clotting disorders. Addressing these ahead of time minimizes anesthetic risk. According to the American Animal Hospital Association, these steps make anesthesia safer across all ages of dogs [1].

On the day of the procedure, the surgical site must be clipped and cleaned to reduce infection risk. Dogs are placed under general anesthesia, so no food should be offered for at least 8-12 hours beforehand to prevent vomiting and aspiration. However, water can be provided until 2-3 hours pre-operation. Withholding water prevents hypotension during anesthesia [2].

Following these preparations allows for smooth anesthesia and surgery.

Post-Surgery Care

Caring for your dog after lipoma removal surgery is crucial for proper healing and recovery. The incision site will need regular cleaning and monitoring for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or discharge. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, “After the first two to three days, the swelling and redness should subside, and the incision should look better each day.” Gently clean the incision area daily with a warm, damp cloth or antiseptic wipe and avoid letting your dog lick or scratch at it.

Your vet will likely recommend restricting your dog’s activity for 7-14 days after surgery to allow the incision to heal. According to Green Cross Vets, “Your pet will feel tired and may be reluctant to move around much in the first few days following surgery.” Provide a comfortable, confined area where your dog can rest undisturbed. Only allow short, leashed walks outside to relieve themselves during the recovery period.

Your vet may prescribe pain medication to keep your dog comfortable after surgery. Give all medication as directed and monitor for side effects like vomiting or diarrhea. According to Windsor Vet, “It will likely take about six weeks until your pet is fully healed. Surgeries that involve ligaments or bones can have a much longer recovery time.” Follow up with your vet within 10-14 days to check the incision site, remove any skin sutures, and discuss transitioning off medication.

Outlook and Prevention

The prognosis after surgical removal of lipomas is generally excellent. Most dogs make a full recovery with minimal complications (PetMD). According to one study, 94% of dogs had no complications after lipoma removal surgery, and 100% of owners reported satisfaction with the outcome (NCBI).

Lipoma removal is not expected to impact lifespan, as lipomas themselves are benign fatty tumors. As long as the surgery goes smoothly, dogs can resume normal activity levels and have a normal life expectancy afterwards (AllPets).

Unfortunately, it’s not currently known how to prevent lipomas from initially forming in dogs. Some vets recommend keeping your dog lean to discourage growth, but lipomas can still develop (PetMD).

It’s important to monitor your dog for any new lipoma growths after one is removed. Up to 50% of dogs will develop additional lipomas later in life (NCBI). Alert your vet if you find any new lumps or bumps on your dog so they can be evaluated and treated early if needed.

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